Sustainability in the workplace: what could you do?

Chloe Elliot leads sustainability in the workplace at Profusion. Content editor Louise Scott found out what she’s been up to …

What does leading sustainability involve and what inspires you to do it?

It’s all about awareness, being mindful of the businesses we partner with and the services we purchase – and actively choosing ethical suppliers.

For me, it comes down to my personal values and having a genuine interest in it. Outside of work, I recycle and I’m conscious of the companies and brands I buy from. I do my research and look at organisations’ values, as that’s important to me as a consumer.

How did you get started?

One of the first things was to start buying in Brewgooder craft beer for our office drinks on Fridays. Its mission to provide clean water to a million people engaged me immediately. It aligned with our chosen charitable causes – food poverty and homelessness – and the sixth UN Sustainable Development Goal. Profusion people genuinely want to get involved in these things.

It was simple. All we had to do was order less of the other beer brands we were getting and start ordering Brewgooder. Our staff didn’t have to do anything except drink the beer on a Friday! We can see our direct impact in real time, at any time, through an online platform it provides. We’ve provided more than 6,000 people with clean water so far just by buying these beers.

How about the coffee?

I was looking online for ethical coffee suppliers and a friend told me about Change Please, a social enterprise that supports homeless people. I had already seen its coffee vans around London and started to do my research. It got my buy-in straight away and I wanted to meet them immediately.

It isn’t just about donating money to a cause. Homeless people are trained to become baristas. They get help to open bank accounts, find flats to live in, access therapy, have laundry budgets and more. It’s a really good business model.

Why is this meaningful to employees at Profusion?

Knowing we can contribute to all this, just by purchasing that coffee, means so much to us. Also we can see our impact because Change Please provides figures on how many days’ barista training we’re contributing to over a year, based on how much coffee we’re drinking.

The organisation is also a London Living Wage employer, fully traceable and RFA-certified – it ticks so many boxes.

What about recycling?

We got rid of 99% of desk bins and put a recycling station at the back of the office, which has been really successful. Our building has a zero waste policy – everything is recycled.

We now use Ocado for plastic bag recycling and groceries as they score quite highly on sustainability­­­­.

How do you find ethical suppliers?

Mostly I research online. Buy Social Directory is a great resource. It’s a database of 10,000 social enterprises that you can search for based on your sector and location.

Is this a growing movement in general and why do you think that is?

There has been a huge change in the past few years. I don’t know if it’s because I’m more aware of it myself or that social conscience has gone up a gear in general. A lot of people are, or want to be, more informed now and choose ethical business.

With social media it’s so much easier for people to find out about things for themselves and businesses can now promote their ethical practices.

What’s next?

When buying supplies for our next event, we aim to use new social enterprises that align with our social impact. We also want to do things like give everyone in the company a reusable water bottle. Offsetting emissions is on our list, too.

What message would you give to other businesses thinking about their sustainability practices?

It’s probably a lot easier than you think. Encouraging good habits in the workplace isn’t difficult, doesn’t have to cost you anything and it’s not time consuming. There’s often a fear that people won’t like change, but it needs someone to take the leap and make a small change.

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Louise Scott

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